Wheelchairs, Mobility Aids, and Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices
The Department of Justice published revised final regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for title II (State and local government services) and title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) on September 15, 2010, in the Federal Register. These requirements, or rules, clarify and refine issues that have arisen over the past 20 years and contain new, and updated, requirements, including the 2010 Standards for Accessible
Design (2010 Standards).
People with mobility, circulatory, respiratory, or neurological disabilities use many kinds of devices for mobility. Some use walkers, canes, crutches, or braces. Some use manual or power wheelchairs or electric scooters. In addition, advances in technology have given rise to new devices, such as Segways®, that some people with disabilities use as mobility devices, including many veterans injured while serving in the military. And more advanced devices will inevitably be invented, providing more mobility options for people with disabilities.
This publication is designed to help title II entities (State and local governments) and title III entities (businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public) (together, “covered entities”) understand how the new rules for mobility devices apply to them. These rules went into effect on March 15, 2011.
Covered entities must allow people with disabilities who use manual or power wheelchairs or scooters, and manually-powered mobility aids such as walkers, crutches, and canes, into all areas where members of the public are allowed to go.
Covered entities must also allow people with disabilities who use other types of power-driven mobility devices into their facilities, unless a particular type of device cannot be accommodated because of legitimate safety requirements. Where legitimate safety requirements bar accommodation for a particular type of device, the covered entity must provide the service it offers in alternate ways if possible.
The rules set out five specific factors to consider in deciding whether or not a particular type of device can be accommodated.
Most people are familiar with the manual and power wheelchairs and electric scooters used by people with mobility disabilities. The term “wheelchair” is defined in the new rules as “a manually-operated or powerdriven device designed primarily for use by an individual with a mobility disability for the main purpose of indoor or of both indoor and outdoor locomotion.”
Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices
In recent years, some people with mobility disabilities have begun using less traditional mobility devices such as golf cars or Segways®. These devices are called “other power-driven mobility device” (OPDMD) in the rule. OPDMD is defined in the new rules as “any mobility device powered by batteries, fuel, or other engines that is used by individuals with mobility disabilities for the purpose of locomotion, including golf cars, electronic personal assistance mobility devices … such as the Segway® PT, or any mobility device designed to operate in areas without defined pedestrian routes, but that is not a wheelchair”. When an OPDMD is being used by a person with a mobility disabil disability, different rules apply under the ADA than when it is being used by a person without a disability.
Choice of Device
People with disabilities have the right to choose whatever mobility device best suits their needs. For example, someone may choose to use a manual wheelchair rather than a power wheelchair because it enables her to maintain her upper body strength. Similarly, someone who is able to stand may choose to use a Segway® rather than a manual wheelchair because of the health benefits gained by standing. A facility may be required to allow a type of device that is generally prohibited when being used by someone without a disability when it is being used by a person who needs it because of a mobility disability. For example, if golf cars are generally prohibited in a park, the park may be required to allow a golf car when it is being used because of a person’s mobility disability, unless there is a legitimate safety reason that it cannot be accommodated.